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Finger Millet Benefits and Side Effects: The Ultimate Guide

finger millet

Welcome to a journey through the world of finger millet! In this blog post, we’ll uncover the secrets of this incredible grain, explore its benefits, and nutritional wonders, and even take a peek at potential side effects. From its humble origins to its role in diverse cuisines, join us as we unravel the story of finger millet, a tiny powerhouse that’s been a culinary and nutritional gem in various cultures for centuries. Learn more about finger millet benefits, nutrition, uses and recipes.

What Is Finger Millet?

Finger Millet is an ancient cereal grain that has been a dietary staple across Africa and Asia for thousands of years. Known scientifically as Eleusine coracana, this small-seeded grass can thrive in hot, semi-arid climates that challenge other crops. These round, reddish-brown grains are packed with nutrients like protein, antioxidants, B vitamins, iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium. Millet stands out not just for its resilience and nutritional value, but also for its versatility.

It can be ground into flour for breads, porridges, soups and even beer. For many cultures, dishes made from millet form part of cherished food traditions that connect the present to the past. Looking ahead, this hardy, nourishing grain could play a key role in efforts to strengthen food security for some of the most vulnerable farming communities around the world. By sharing millet’s long, fascinating history, perhaps we can also spark renewed interest in its future.

Finger Millet Nutritional Value (Per 100g)

According to the data based on IFCT (Indian Food Composition Tables) – National Institute of Nutrition (2017). Here is the Finger millet nutritional value per 100g:

NutrientsValue per 100g
Energy320 kcal
Dietary fibre11.18g
Carbohydrate66.82g
Total fat1.92g
Protein7.16g
Total folates34.66mcg
Vitamin B1 (thiamin)0.37mg
Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)0.17mg
Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)0.05mg
Vitamin K0.9mcg
Phosphorus210mg
Manganese3.19mg
Potassium443mg
Zinc2.53mg
Calcium364mg
Iron4.62mg
Magnesium146mg
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Benefits of Finger Millet

Finger millet, a natural calcium powerhouse, strengthens bones in growing children and the elderly. Regular consumption promotes bone health, warding off diseases like osteoporosis, and reducing the risk of fractures. Make it a part of your diet for robust skeletal well-being.

Listed below are some of the Finger Millet benefits;

1. Contains High Protein

Finger millet is a cereal crop that has a high protein content compared to other grains. According to a review article, finger millet contains 7.2 g of protein per 100 g of grains, which is similar to rice. However, some varieties of finger millet have even higher protein levels, up to 14.7 g per 100 g.

Finger Millet’s protein game is top-notch! The main protein, eleusinin, is easy for your body to gobble up. It’s a jackpot for keeping malnutrition away, especially for kids and moms-to-be. And if you’re a veggie lover, this grain’s got the protein power you need. Methionine, a protein part, is like the VIP here, making up 5% of finger millet’s protein – beating out most cereals in the protein

2. A Natural calcium powerhouse

Packed with minerals like calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. Guess what’s wild? This cereal has 5 to 30 times more calcium than other grains, even more than milk! And you know what calcium does? It’s like the super grain for your bones, keeping them strong and kicking osteoporosis out of the picture!
Finger millet also has significant levels of iron, which is important for preventing anaemia and boosting haemoglobin levels.

Finger millet is also regarded as a ‘super cereal’ by the United States National Academies, which published a study titled “The Lost Crops of Africa”. Finger millet is like the super grain of cereals when it comes to nutrition! It’s like this grain holds the secret to top-notch nutrition, ready to boost the health game worldwide!

3. Controls Diabetes

Finger millet, or ragi, packs a punch against diabetes. This cereal comes loaded with complex carbs, dietary fibre, and phytochemicals – those plant-powered compounds that work wonders for our health.
The real magic happens in the grain’s outer layer, where you find a treasure trove of goodness. Ragi’s jackpot? Polyphenols – these bad boys bring serious antioxidant and anti-inflammatory games, like 40 times more than rice and 5 times more than wheat!

Studies back it up too: finger millet can help drop blood sugar levels, ease oxidative stress, and amp up insulin sensitivity in folks with diabetes. Plus, it’s a champ at speeding up wound healing in diabetic patients by tweaking those genes involved in healing and beating inflammation.

4. Anti-microbial Properties

Finger millet, aka ragi, brings more to the table than just nutrition – it’s a natural powerhouse against microbes. Thanks to its polyphenols, this cereal packs anti-microbial abilities that put the brakes on various bacteria causing havoc in humans and animals.

Studies, like one in a Pharma journal, showcased how finger millet’s polyphenols took down troublemakers like Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and a whole squad of other bacteria responsible for infections ranging from food poisoning to urinary tract troubles.

Not stopping there, finger millet even gave Bacillus cereus, the villain behind food poisoning, a run for its money! But wait, there’s more: it’s not just about fighting off these microbes, finger millet also hinders the formation of bacterial communities that resist antibiotics.

So, besides being a nutrition champ, it’s a potential natural hero against infections, reducing our reliance on synthetic antibiotics. And get this, it could even lend a hand as a food preservative, extending shelf life and keeping spoilage at bay.

5. Anti-cancer Potential

Finger millet, or ragi, isn’t just your regular cereal – it packs a punch against cancer too. Loaded with antioxidants, it’s like a shield for your cells, protecting them from oxidative harm and lowering the risk of cancer and ageing. The real kicker? It is a treasure trove of phenolic compounds like phenolic acids, flavonoids, and tannins, especially chilling in the grain’s seed coat.

These compounds aren’t just sitting pretty; they’re antioxidants, battling free radicals, tweaking enzyme activity, and even prompting cancer cells to self-destruct. Studies show finger millet can slow down the growth and invasion of colon cancer cells and decrease the chances of oesophagal cancer. So, yeah, this cereal isn’t just about brekkie – it’s a potential cancer fighter on your plate!

6. Keeps You Young

Finger millet is a secret keeper of youthfulness! Packed with phenolic compounds and antioxidants, this cereal’s like a shield, protecting your cells from ageing caused by oxidative damage. But here’s the kicker: finger millet, along with kodo millet, can slow down this thing called collagen cross-linking.
Now, collagen? It’s that protein that keeps our tissues elastic – think tendons, skin, and blood vessels. When collagen cross-links, it makes things stiff and less flexible, speeding up those signs of ageing. By playing a role in slowing this process, finger millet helps keep your tissues feeling youthful and can put the brakes on the whole ageing game.

7. Finger millet Reduces Bad Cholesterol and prevents Cardiovascular Disease

Finger millet isn’t just a cereal – it’s a heart-healthy hero! Packed with phytochemicals like polyphenols and dietary fibre, it’s on a mission to slash cholesterol and keep your heart ticking smoothly.
Some studies found that consuming finger millet for a few weeks to a few months led to significant drops in “bad” cholesterol levels like triglycerides, LDL, and VLDL – those troublemakers that stir up artery issues.

But here’s the good news: finger millet didn’t stop there. It boosted the “good” guy, HDL cholesterol, which swoops in to clear out excess cholesterol and protect your heart.
Plus, it’s a pro at trimming down blood pressure and body mass index, both big players in heart health. Bottom line? This cereal is a heart-happy superstar, cutting cholesterol, easing inflammation, and even lending a hand in managing obesity and hypertension.

8. Finger Millet For Anaemia

Finger millet is a natural ally against anaemia. Packed with iron, a key mineral for making red blood cells and haemoglobin, it’s like a superhero for oxygen delivery to your body’s tissues and organs. Anaemia, that feeling of fatigue, weakness, and pale skin, especially hits women and kids hard, affecting their growth, immunity, and all-around well-being.

But here’s the good news: finger millet steps in to help prevent and treat anaemia, offering up natural and easily absorbable iron. Studies back it up too: research on adolescent girls showed that regular finger millet porridge consumption boosted their haemoglobin levels and reduced anaemia prevalence significantly.

And get this: finger millet sprouts take it up a notch, boasting higher iron content and absorption than raw grains, making them a potential functional food for anaemia. So, if you’re looking for an effective and budget-friendly way to fight anaemia, finger millet’s got your back!

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Uses Of Finger Millet and Applications

Finger millet, also known as ragi, is a versatile cereal that can be used in various ways. Here are some of the common uses and applications of finger millet:

  • Traditional Eats: Across Africa and Asia, it’s a kitchen staple for making porridge, bread, cakes, and even malt and beer. In places like India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, it’s a key player in dishes like roti, dosa, idli, and laddu. Beyond taste, it’s prized for its nutrition, medicinal value, and cultural significance.
  • Rice Alternative: Looking for an alternative to rice? Ragi’s got your back. Similar texture and taste, but is packed with extra health goodies like being gluten-free, low on the glycemic index, and loaded with protein, calcium, iron, and antioxidants. Use it like rice or get creative – turn it into noodles, pasta, or even couscous. And yes, it’s versatile enough for breakfast cereals, snacks, or desserts too.
  • Feeding Time: Don’t count out the straw! It’s a hit with cattle, sheep, goats, horses, and poultry, boosting their digestion, milk production, and egg quality. Bonus: it’s soft, absorbent, and eco-friendly, making it a comfy bedding option.

From the plate to the farm, finger millet does it all. Mix it up with other grains, legumes, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, spices, and herbs to whip up tasty and nutritious dishes that’ll keep you coming back for more.

Healthy Finger Millet Recipes

1. Finger Millet Dosa: A Crispy and Healthy Breakfast

millet dosa

A finger millet dosa, also called ragi dosa, isn’t just delicious – it’s a breakfast powerhouse. Packed with finger millet flour, rice flour, and urad dal flour, it’s gluten-free and packed with protein, calcium, iron, and antioxidants. Super easy to make and awesome with chutney, sambar, or whatever floats your flavour boat!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup finger millet flour
  • 1/4 cup rice flour
  • 1/4 cup urad dal flour
  • Salt to taste
  • Water as needed
  • Oil for greasing
  • Cumin seeds for sprinkling

Instructions

  • In a large bowl, mix the finger millet flour, rice flour, urad dal flour, and salt. Add water gradually and whisk well to make a thin and smooth batter. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
  • Get your non-stick tawa or griddle heating up on medium-high heat and give it a light oiling. Sprinkle some cumin seeds on it, then pour a ladleful of batter. Spread it out evenly in a nice, thin circle by moving your ladle around.
  • Spray a little oil around the edges and let it sit until it gets that beautiful golden crunch. After flipping it over, let it chill for a minute. Repeat with the remaining batter.
  • Serve hot with your preferred accompaniment.

Recipe Notes

  • For an extra kick in your dosa, toss in some chopped onion, green chilli, ginger, and curry leaves into the batter. They’ll bring in more flavour and texture to amp up your breakfast game.
  • If you’re aiming for a tangier and fluffier dosa, try fermenting the batter overnight. Mix in some yoghurt or buttermilk, then let it sit in a cosy spot. By morning, if it needs it, add a bit of water and tweak the salt to your taste. Your dosa will thank you for the extra time!
  • You can also make instant finger millet dosa by using only finger millet flour and water. Just mix them well and cook as above.

2. Finger Millet Pakoda: A Crispy and Spicy Snack

millet pakoda

Ever tried finger millet pakoda, aka ragi pakoda? It’s not just crispy and spicy – it’s a flavour explosion! Whip it up with finger millet flour, gram flour, onion, green chilli, ginger, curry leaves, and a bunch of spices. This snack is a gluten-free champ, packed with fibre, iron, and antioxidants. Easy to make and perfect for tea time or as a stellar appetizer. Dip it in ketchup or chutney for the full experience!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup finger millet flour
  • 1/2 cup gram flour
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 green chillies, finely chopped
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • A few curry leaves, chopped
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder
  • A pinch of asafoetida
  • A pinch of baking soda
  • Water as needed
  • Oil for frying

Instructions

  • Grab a huge bowl and toss in the ingredients.
  • Stir it all together until it becomes thick, then slowly
  • Add water until it becomes smooth.
  • Pour some oil into the frying pan.
  • Heat it on medium-high.
  • Drop small spoonfuls of that batter into the hot oil and sizzle away until they’re that gorgeous golden crispy! Enjoy the crispy bites
  • Give ’em a flip now and then for that even cook.
  • Once they’re looking perfect, take ’em out of the oil and let them chill out on a paper towel to drain off any excess oil. Serve these crispy bites hot with your favourite dip.

Enjoy the goodness!

Recipe Notes

  • Feel free to throw in some extra veggies like carrots, cabbage, or spinach into the batter. They’ll amp up both the nutrition and the flavour.
  • Want to tweak the spice level? Adjust the green chilli and red chilli powder to match your taste buds.
  • Looking for a healthier option? Try making these pakodas in an air fryer or oven. Just give ’em a light spray of oil and bake at 180°C for about 15 to 20 minutes until they’re nice and crispy. Healthy snacking at its finest!

3. Finger Millet Malt: A Refreshing and Energizing Drink

Ever tried finger millet malt or ragi malt? It’s a tasty blend of finger millet flour, milk, water, sugar, and a pinch of cardamom powder.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup finger millet flour
  • 2 cups milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder

Instructions

  • Roast the finger millet flour in a pan over low heat until it turns slightly brown and aromatic. Stir constantly to avoid burning. Throw everything in the blender and turn it on for a second.
  • Add water, milk, sugar, and cardamom powder. Blitz it until it’s super smooth and all bubbly.
  • Then, pour that mix into a pan and crank up the heat. Let it bubble away for about 10 minutes, stirring now and then until it’s nice and thick – just like you want it!
  • Serve hot or chilled in glasses.

Recipe Notes

  • Want to jazz up the flavours? Go wild with additions like vanilla, cocoa, or saffron to mix things up and give it an extra punch.
  • Thinking of a dairy-free twist? Try almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk for a dairy-free twist! Vegan vibes, coming right up.
  • And hey, if sweetness is your jam, play around with the sugar levels. More, less, just right – it’s your call! Make that malt dance to your taste buds’ beat.
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Side Effects Of Finger Millet

Excessive ragi consumption may elevate oxalic acid levels, posing risks for those with kidney stones. Not recommended for such individuals, ragi is rich in nutrients, promoting overall health and relaxation for optimal bodily function.

Here are some of the potential side effects of finger millet:

1. May Cause Kidney Stones

The calcium in finger millet can amp up oxalic acid in your body, potentially leading to kidney stones. If you’ve had kidney stones or urinary calculi, it might be best to limit or skip finger millet. Staying hydrated is crucial too, helping to flush out those excess oxalates.

2. May Cause Thyroid Issues

Finger millet contains goitrogens, compounds that can throw a wrench in thyroid hormone production and function. For folks with thyroid issues like hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, it’s smart to chat with a doctor before adding finger millet to your plate. It might affect how your thyroid works and your medication needs.

3. Goiter Concerns

Goiter, when your thyroid swells due to low iodine, isn’t best pals with finger millet. If you’re at risk or dealing with goitre, cutting back on finger millet might be wise. Instead, consider iodine-rich foods like seafood, dairy, and eggs, and toss in some iodized salt to keep your iodine levels in check.

4. May Cause Digestive Issues

Finger millet has high fibre content, which can cause digestive problems such as bloating, gas, and diarrhoea in some individuals, especially those with sensitive stomachs. The best way to overcome this issue is to start with small portions and gradually increase to adapt.

5. May Cause Allergic Reactions

While it may be rare, some individuals may have an allergy to finger millet, experiencing symptoms such as hives, itching, swelling, and difficulty breathing. If you have any concerns or show any sign of allergies then immediately consult with a doctor and take proper medication.

FAQ: Finger Millet

Finger millet, or ragi, brings a lot to the table in terms of health benefits like protein, calcium, iron, and antioxidants. Here are some FAQs and their answers about finger millet:

Is it advisable to consume Finger Millet at night?

Finger millet packs in proteins and complex carbohydrates, which take their time to digest and get absorbed in the body. For optimal absorption and nutrient uptake, it’s best to have ragi during breakfast in the morning or as part of your lunch in the afternoon. This way, the active stomach acid during these times can assist in better digestion and nutrient absorption from ragi.

Does adding Finger Millet to a meal increase weight?

No, Finger Millet can help in weight loss, as it has dietary fibre, complex carbs, and proteins that make you feel full and delay hunger. Finger Millet also helps in regulating blood sugar levels and maintaining bone health, which are important for weight management.

Is Finger Millet good for antenatal women?

Yes, Finger Millet is very beneficial for pregnant and lactating women, as it has sprouted ragi, which enhances the nutritional value of ragi. Sprouted Finger Millet stimulates milk production in lactating women and supports the health of pregnant women.

What are the ways I can incorporate Finger Millet into my meal plan?

Finger Millet is a versatile cereal that can be used in various forms and dishes. You can have ragi as idli, dosa, roti, porridge, or ragi balls, mixed with different ingredients, such as milk, spices, and vegetables. Finger Millet can also be used to make snacks, desserts, and beverages.

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